Trav'lin – The New 1930s Harlem Musical, will receive its Regional Premiere production at Fort Worth's Jubilee Theatre in Spring 2013. The musical, which received a developmental production in 2010 as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), runs March 29, 2013 through April 28, 2013.
Trav'lin features a classic jazz and blues score by Harlem Renaissance composer J.C. Johnson (1896-1981). Johnson wrote Bessie Smith's signature "Empty Bed Blues" and collaborated with some of the best-loved composers and lyricists of the period including "Fats" Waller, Andy Razaf, Chick Webb, George Whiting and Nat Schwartz. His music has been performed and recorded by numerous stars including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and has been heard on Broadway in Ain't Misbehavin' and Me and Bessie.
The book for Trav'lin is by Johnson's protegé Gary Holmes and Allan Shapiro. The original story, inspired by Johnson's tales of his life and times, follows three couples of different ages playing the game of love in 1930s Harlem. They learn an enduring lesson when George, a retired Pullman porter and church deacon, meets his match in the guise of a down-and-out stranger who is not the person she pretends to be.
Following public readings at The York Theatre Company, Trav'lin received a fully-staged developmental production at NYMF in 2010 featuring Doug Eskew (Five Guys Named Moe) and Brenda Braxton (Smokey Joe's Café). The show was called "a minor miracle" and "a pure delight" by The Huffington Post and highlighted in a Wall Street Journalfeature story on Johnson. In July 2012, a revised version of the script was presented in a public reading at 1stStage Theater in the Greater Washington, D.C. area.
More information on Trav'lin – The New 1930s Harlem Musical and sound clips can be found at www.travlinthemusical.com.
Tickets to Jubilee Theater's production of Trav'lin will be available for purchase on-line or by phone( 817-338-4411 ) beginning January 25, 2013. Jubilee Theatre is located at 506 Main Street in downtown Fort Worth. More information about the theatre can be found at www.jubileetheater.org.
J.C. JOHNSON (principal composer) arrived in Harlem from Chicago in the 1920s, and quickly established his reputation as a composer and lyricist, becoming Fats Waller's best friend and frequent collaborator. He wrote the classic "Empty Bed Blues" for Bessie Smith and "Lonesome Swallow" for Ethel Waters. Billie Holiday sang his "Trav'lin All Alone" when auditioning for her first singing job, one of several of his songs she went on to record. He also composed songs for Broadway shows and revues, and his Jazz Train played the West End and toured Europe for three years in the 1950s. More recently, his songs have been included in Me and Bessie, Ain't Misbehavin', and the West End's Cotton Club and Rent Party. J.C.'s work has become part of American popular musical history.
"FATS" WALLER, Andy Razaf, Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, Claude Hopkins, George Whiting and NAT SCHWARTZ, some of the best-loved composers and lyricists of the period, all collaborated with J.C. on the songs in Trav'lin.
GARY HOLMES (book and additional lyrics) met J.C. Johnson at age ten and instantly became his protegé and friend, learning about his music and eagerly listening to his wondrous stories, many of which form the basis forTrav'lin. Gary's passion for J.C.'s music and legacy has become a lifetime commitment. Gary holds an MFA in playwriting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and has had his plays produced in various colleges and small theaters. Other current writing projects include the play Diary of a Nobody (based on George Grossmith's bookNight Club Mamas), a musical revue, and a film adaptation of the book A Good Day Has No Rain.